All for Love
By N.J. Kailhofer
Based on art by
William R. Warren, Jr. as well as characters and
situations created by Bill Wolfe, Casey Callaghan, and N.J. Kailhofer
Some of the
individual versions of the
stories in this series were written
for forum flash challenge contests to help create this "world." As
such, stories may not match the characters or settings of the
continuous version of the story, which blended all the entries together.
Macridin stabbed his finger on the send button. "You saw the orders
as well as I did. We'll store him outside until we orbit, then bury him
after we land. Look, Captain, all due respect, but Ophelia's still a
member of my crew, and she will be there, not locked up. If she
didn't do it, I want them all at the funeral where I can see their
faces. Mac out."
And stop calling every two hours! I'll put my own house in order.
Barnes floated in his spacesuit in the center of the Hab module,
tethered to the floor below. They hadn't known where else to keep him.
The crew waited on the far end of the room. None of them seemed broken
up. Takuya and he were supposed to be pals, always playing video games
against each other. Sergei wouldn't even answer Macridin's questions
without instructions from his government. Hell, Helga wanted to use his
body as fertilizer on her damn plants. Burying him offended her German
sense of efficiency.
Ophelia wasn't anywhere near them.
No one wanted to meet his eye, except her. Ophelia's eyes
blazed, no doubt due to the zip ties binding her hands and feet.
Mac cleared his throat. "A body doesn't belong in here."
Takuya looked up, puzzled.
"This room is where we eat, where we gather, where we exercise, or
where we watch tv. This place is the heart of our home here, a place of
Helga watched him now, too.
"But Sidney Barnes is dead. He can't eat with us. He can't exercise,
can't watch that damn soap opera. But he can gather with us one more
time, so we can all hear how he was murdered."
He could have heard a pin drop.
"Sidney Barnes bled to death after a thin object was stabbed into
his chest until it almost came out his back, but not before it ripped
a hole right through his heart."
Sergei looked uncomfortable. Ophelia stared defiantly.
"Someone in this room did this." He tilted the body so they'd have
to look at the face. Mac floated beside the body, his face next to
"Someone in this room murdered this man."
He paused, studying the faces. Helga looked uneasy, maybe annoyed.
Takuya looked shocked. Sergei swallowed, watching the faces around him.
Mac continued. "I'm going to tell you all a secret. Barnes here had
Ophelia looked at the floor. Mac floated over. Softly, he asked, "It
was a boy, right?"
"What did they name him?"
Sergei asked, "Why are you asking her?"
"The blackout is because of their child. Earth is calling it a sex
scandal. They didn't want you to see the newscasts."
Mac moved close, and took her hands. "Look at me. Did he rape you?
Is that how you got pregnant? You have to tell me."
Her eyes were brown pools. "No."
Helga's tone was sharp. "What this have to do with Barnes' death?
Why are you asking her this in front of all of us?"
"Rape is a good motive for murder."
Their faces were all confusion, nothing else.
He turned back to Ophelia. "How did you get pregnant, then? You
showed up at the hospital all banged up."
She shook her head. "No. SERE wilderness survival training. We did a
night drop and I landed in a rapids. I was beat and scratched to hell
by the time I got out of that river. When we got back, I had liberty. I
was blowing off steam in this quiet bar across town and saw Sidney. He
always made me laugh. I--we both drank too much."
"Why the secrecy?"
She sighed. "My mother was born in Pakistan. She's very traditional.
You know what it was like before we invaded. I didn't want her to know.
It was hard enough for her to accept the life I chose."
He looked directly into her eyes. "Did you kill him?"
"No. I was Com Officer that shift but I was supposed to do an
interview for Good Morning America at 03:00, so Sidney was
going to relieve me at 02:00 so I had time to clean up for tv. He
didn't show. I went looking for him."
"I have direct orders not to do this until some formal inquiry back
on earth." He cut Ophelia loose. "But they can kiss my ass. This is my
Mac said to the rest of them, "That leaves one of you as prime
Sergei protested he'd hear from the Russian government. Takuya
howled in loud Japanese. Helga glared at him dangerously.
Mac closed the door of his quarters. He took out a tab of Kentucky
rye and squeezed it dry. He just couldn't pin it on any one of them,
and couldn't lock them all up. They needed to do their jobs.
Ophelia knocked and floated in.
"Mac," she said, "I know you read the 'eyes only' message for
Al-Hassanieh ten minutes before the blackout. I saw what you did."
"Sidney was recording segments for National Geographic before the
blackout. Outgoing data gets held in the temporary queue until it's copied
into the send queue. Send is erased by the blackout protocol, but until
new data writes over it, it's still in the temp queue."
Mac frowned. "Your chemist friend's thesis was about canceling the
effects of alcohol before it's absorbed. Don't you see? He was sober
when he slept with you. He used you. Kissed you. Touched you."
"I couldn't live with that."
She put her hand on his. "But I could. I knew."
Mac exhaled slowly. "What are you going to do?"
Ophelia paused. "The mission is more important. The ship needs a
commander." She stopped in the doorway. "But after this mission is
over, the truth needs to come out... from you."
Mac watched her disappear down the corridor. By then you'll have
forgiven me... my love.
©2008 N.J. Kailhofer
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